Have you been in the gym recently and seen a strange cylindrical tube and wondered what it was? You may have seen someone rolling up and down on one grimacing for all their might wondering what on earth they are doing. Well, this is what's called Foam Rolling and if you want to get really technical you can call it `self myofascial release`!
Self myofascial release is a fancy term for self massage and is used to release muscle tightness or trigger points. It can be performed with a foam roller or with other pieces of equipment like a spikey massage ball, hand held roller or just your own hands! By applying pressure to specific points on your body you are able to aid in the recovery of muscles and assist in returning them to normal function.
Foam rolling used to be a very mysterious activity that was only used by professional athletes or therapists but is now becoming a familiar everyday practice for people of all levels of fitness. Foam rollers can come in all manner of sizes and designs, some may be hollowed, some may have ridges on but they all serve a similar purpose. They are also a relatively affordable piece of kit with prices ranging from £10-£20 but can go up £60-£70 for more advanced options.
So how does foam rolling work?
Deep compression applied by the roller helps to break up or relax tight muscles and adhesions formed between muscle layers and their surroundings. This then allows normal blood flow to return and the restoration of healthy tissue.
How do you do it?
The beauty of foam rolling is that it's very easy to perform and is not designed to be rocket science! You simply lie on top of the roller placing it under the tight muscle you want to work on. By using your own body weight as the resistance you then roll forwards and backwards.
There are however a few pointers to remember when using a foam roller:
adjust your body position often,
add or remove body weight to increase or decrease the intensity,
use your hands and feet to stabilise the body, and breathe consistently.
do not roll over tendons, joints, or bony structures.
Foam rolling can be uncomfortable and at times painful so it's important not to overdo it. I would recommend the little and often approach, stick to 4-5 minutes each session but be consistent with it and if you can do this every day you will get some great results. It's also important to add that if you are suffering with an Injury or experience sharp pain when rolling seek professional advice from a Sports Therapist to ensure you're not doing any further harm.
So, foam rolling is a simple yet great technique to use to help your body recover and maintain healthy levels of function but also to enhance performance. I do affectionately call them `implements of torture` but the benefits will far outweigh any discomfort from the act itself.